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Mikel Patrik’s colorful ‘Pixels’ work best as a whole

Mikel Patrik (PHOTO: BILL HUGHES)
Mikel Patrik (PHOTO: BILL HUGHES)

“No one could pronounce it,” explains artist Mikel Patrik, of Thieme, his real last name. So, in 2009, for career purposes only, he rebranded himself and his art with the more memorable and slightly exotic Mikel Patrik, which he typically spells out in all caps.

The switch seemed to do the trick, as his name and work are gaining recognition. He’s been scooped up by Mastrioni’s restaurant, LVNV Boutique at the Wynn and two Artistic Lifestyles galleries — a soon-to-open San Diego location (which opens up cross-pollination opportunities for Vegas artists and the SoCal gallery) and the one here, currently hosting his new exhibit, 99 Pops of Pixel.

Playfully alluding to the song “99 Bottles of Beer,” the exhibit features 99 panels of Patrik’s hand-painted pixel paintings. The first 75 squares occupy a central wall in the gallery, each 5 inches-by-5 inches and exploring two color combinations, like a chemistry experiment. Taken as a whole, the panels begin to communicate with colors in neighboring panels until the entire wall is faintly buzzing with the language of color. The works offer an experiment similar to Damien Hirst’s attempts to control color through his Spot paintings, in which a group of small squares gains frenetic energy, but significantly loses it when one is separated from the whole.

“It’s interesting how a color can look like a totally different color when put with different colors,” says Patrik, gesturing at an ultramarine blue daubed with Pepto pink in one panel, and metallic white in another. “These are color studies. I’m interested in experimenting with color and color adjacency.”

Heading further into the exhibit, a series of panels progress from all black pixels, to all white, and then on to panels with a single square of color. Single colored squares transition into multiple blocks of color in various configurations set against a white background at times, black at others, the effect similar to calibrating gamma on a screen. The series reads like an analog color story as programing moves from monochromatic screens to the first 8-bit colored blocks. Lastly, the floating rectangles begin to touch corners, forming mazes resembling a video-game level and a series of jumps and maneuvers for the game’s player.

But Patrik wasn’t influenced by video games. Instead, he explains the images were inspired by “the architect in me. They are a study of scale … use of squatty and long shapes that all start with a grid.” Prior to starting his career as an artist, Patrik received an architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As part of his degree program, he spent a year abroad in France, soaking up European art and architecture.

“The architecture school was in the horse stables of King Louis XIV’s chateau in Versailles,” says Patrik. “Each day I would look out my studio window towards the entrance of his palace!”

Looking for a change of pace, Patrik recalled a high school trip to the desert, where he “fell in love with the high heat, the mountains and the native cacti. It was so drastically different than the Midwest.” Upon graduating, he began sending out resumes — but only to Phoenix, where he practiced architecture until a love interest brought him to Las Vegas. “Yes, that relationship is no longer,” he says, “but I love Vegas, so I have decided to make this my home base.”

The interior-design aspect of architectural projects eventually lead Patrik to begin making paintings of his own. Architectural color studies and his earlier exposure to European artists such as Josef Albers, Georges Seurat and Piet Mondrian, as well as more contemporary influences like Max Bill and Karl Benjamin, all percolated into the work.

99 Pops ends with a mosaic of colored pixels stretching across two long narrow panels. Pointing to various colors, he refers to them as “ocean, lava, sand,” further explaining that “this is my interpretation of, and probably the closest I’ll ever get to, a landscape.” Taking such a palette and dissolving image coherency into abstraction is another step in the evolution of post-impressionist landscape painting. “It’s new pointillism,” adds Patrik, finding a fitting “ism” for the new development in his work.

99 POPS OF PIXEL, Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Artistic Lifestyles, 2758 S. Highland Drive, Suite B, www.artisticlifestyles.com.